This collection showcases Aotearoa Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender screen production. The journey to Shortland Street civil unions, rainbows in Parliament and the Big Gay Out is one of pride, but also one of secrets, shame and discrimination. As Peter Wells writes in this introduction, the titles are testament to a — joyful, defiant — struggle to "fight to exist".
This Queer Nation episode, presented by Max Currie, is an overview of the capital city's queer history. The literary demimonde is first up: Katherine Mansfield's lesbian affairs and a scandal involving Norris Davey (aka Frank Sargeson). Then the role is explored of the Dorian Society (1962-1986) and its subgroup the Homosexual Law Reform Society, which paved the way towards decriminalisation in the 1980s. The programme also introduces viewers to NZ’s most famous trannies: Carmen and then-MP Georgina Beyer. Interviews and archive material spice up the history.
The birth of television in the 1960s meant that suddenly protests and civil unrest could be broadcast directly into Kiwi homes. This episode of 50 Years of New Zealand Television looks at many of those events — involving everything from the Vietnam War and the Springbok tour, to Bastion Point and the Homosexual Law Reform Act. It also examines how being televised altered their impact. Interviews with both protestors and reporters provide a unique insight into what it was like to be living through extraordinary periods of New Zealand history.
As Syd Jackson’s daughter Ramari puts it, there are some who sit on the couch and moan, and others who get up and take action. Winner of Best Māori Programme at the 2003 NZ TV Awards, this episode of Ngā Reo profiles the late fighter for Māori, women's and homosexual rights. The "warrior" intellectual helped put Treaty debate on the agenda, and led Māori activist group Ngā Tamatoa and the Clerical Workers Union. His nephew, broadcaster Willie Jackson, credits his uncle with rousing "the sleeping giant" of Māori activism in the 70s. Jackson would die in September 2007.
A special episode which asks ten queer people from all over New Zealand about issues affecting their lives. Subjects include health, looking at HIV and safe sex; issues around homophobia, especially focusing on opposition to the Civil Union Bill (passed after this programme was made); the importance of family and relationships; bringing up children within gay relationships; and attitudes to gay marriage (or civil unions). It winds up with comments on how much more tolerant New Zealand society has become since homosexual law reform, in 1986.
Peter Wells was an accomplished writer/director who explored gay and historical themes in his work. Among his screen credits are groundbreaking TV dramas Jewel’s Darl and A Death in the Family. Wells also created stylish feature film Desperate Remedies with co-director Stewart Main. In later years he collaborated with filmmaker Annie Goldson for documentary Georgie Girl.
Guitar-playing yodellers The Topp Twins have been bringing audiences together for decades. As this Funny As interview demonstrates, Jools and Lynda Topp make for a formidable team. Among other topics, they talk about: Six decades of making each other laugh, starting from when they had to share a bath as children Making yodelling funny How an empty petrol tank and a prison cell launched their career; how busking taught them showmanship Protest, politics, loose elastic bands, and the value of "beautiful mistakes" Winning over an audience of London punks How Lynda got married before gay marriage became legal
National treasures The Topp Twins (aka twins Lynda and Jools Topp) have performed as a country-music singing and yodelling comedy duo for more than 25 years. In the late 90s they created their own TV series which ran for three seasons and showcased their iconic cast of Kiwi characters, including Camp Mother, the Bowling Ladies and cross-dressing Ken and Ken. The series, travelling from a Highland Games to a Tauranga triathlon, won the twins - out-and-proud lesbians - several gongs at the NZ Film and TV Awards and screened on the ABC and Foxtel in Australia.
Alongside her experience as a journalism tutor and media advisor, Allison Webber has worked on many television documentaries investigating social issues — including as driving force behind then controversial series Expressions of Sexuality.
Peter Wells broke ground as one of the first New Zealanders to tell gay stories on-screen. Aside from his work as an author, he explored gay and historical themes in several acclaimed drama and documentaries — including pioneering TV drama A Death in the Family, colourful big screen melodrama Desperate Remedies and Georgina Beyer documentary Georgie Girl. Wells died on 18 February 2019.